The Giant’s Causeway is a World Heritage Site in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, three miles northeast of Bushmills, the oldest distillery in Ireland, four miles from Dunluce Castle, eight miles from Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and thirteen miles from Ballycastle, where I stayed.

Giant's Causeway appears to cross the sea to Scotland

Giant’s Causeway appears to cross the sea to Scotland

Guidebooks say there are about 40,000 columns. They look almost like stepping stones leading from the cliff into the sea. Across the sea, on the Scottish isle of Staffa, the columns climb back out of the sea at Fingal’s Cave and continue north east to the island of Ulva in the Inner Hebrides.

Columns are nearly 40 feet tall, like a four story building.

Columns are nearly 40 feet tall, like a four story building.

Nearly all the columns have six sides, but there are a few with four, five, seven or eight sides. Many columns are tall, very tall. Up to nearly 40 feet tall, like a four story building.

Giant's Causeway formed when ancient lava contracted as it cooled, cracking the same way mud cracks when it dries.

Giant’s Causeway formed when ancient lava contracted as it cooled, cracking the same way mud cracks when it dries.

How They Formed

Giant’s Causeway began with an ancient volcanic eruption.  Molten basalt came through chalk beds forming a very thick lava plateau. The lava contracted as it cooled, cracking the same way mud cracks when it dries. Because the lava was so thick, it left these pillars. Some of them also cracked horizontally. The horizontal fracture is cupped. The lower part of the column cups up, the upper part fits over it with a matching indentation. Guidebooks call it a “ball and socket” joint. But, it looks more just cupped to me.

Giant’s Causeway Legend

Irish giant Finn MacCool, also called Fingal (or Fionn mac Cumhaill in Gaelic) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn MacCool built the causeway to reach Benandonner.

From here there are two stories. Some people say Fionn defeats Benandonner.

In the other version, Finn gets to Scotland and realizes Benandonner is bigger than he looked from Ireland. He ran back to Ireland and hid. When Benandonner comes to search for him, Finn’s wife wrapped him up to look like a baby. Benandonner sees the size of Finn’s “baby” and thinks Finn must be enormous. As he flees home to Scotland, he destroys the causeway behind him so Finn can’t follow.

My Visit to Giant’s Causeway

The trail to Giant's Causeway is very easy and level.

The trail to Giant’s Causeway is very easy and level.

There is a visitor center. I was early, so it wasn’t open yet. You walk half a mile to the main area with columns. There is a tram, but I was too early for it.  I dropped in the visitor’s center on the way out.

Hat I should have bought in Giant's Causeway visitor's center

Hat I should have bought in Giant’s Causeway visitor’s center

You can walk anywhere at the site. Some of the columns close to the water are slick, so be careful. The water was extremely cold and deep.

Nature Reserve

Birdwatchers were photographing this little guy at Giant's Causeway, so I did too. I don't know what he is.

Birdwatchers were photographing this little guy, so I did too. I don’t know what he is.

Giant’s Causeway is a national nature reserve. There are a lot of birds, especially seabirds. There were birdwatchers trying to photograph them. I took a couple of photos, too.

Sea Pink or Sea Thrift near Giant's Causeway

I think this is Sea Pink or Sea Thrift.

This is also a good place to see some unusual plants. Look at the different plants on the walk to the columns.

Trivia

Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis took the photos for Led Zeppelin at Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland. It was was inspired by the ending of Arthur C. Clarke's novel Childhood's End.

The cover art was shot at Giant’s Causeway.

Look familiar? Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis took the photos for Led Zeppelin at Giant’s Causeway. The inside cover art was shot nearby at Dunluce Castle.

Next: Dunluce Castle >

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Next: Dunluce Castle >

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